Netflix in 2006 held an open competition to find the collaborative filtering algorithm that would best predict whether or not a user would like a particular film or TV show based on previous ratings. The grand prize of $1 million was awarded to a team called “BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos” in 2009. The team’s algorithm was found to be 10% more effect than Netflix’s own recommendation service, however the company never implemented the team’s solution into its own service. “We evaluated some of the new methods offline but the additional accuracy gains that we measured did not seem to justify the engineering effort needed to bring them into a production environment,” Netflix finally explained in a recent blog post. “Also, our focus on improving Netflix personalization had shifted to the next level by then.” The company said because the majority its users were streaming videos rather than renting DVDs, it wasn’t logical to integrate the algorithm into its recommendation service, which is different for its streaming service and DVD rental program. More →
Google on Wednesday announced a new deal with Paramount Pictures that will allow more than 500 movie titles to be rented through YouTube and the Google Play marketplace. The Mountain View-based company now has rental deals with five of the six major Hollywood studios — including Paramount, Warner Brothers, Disney, Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures — and 20th Century Fox is the only studio that hasn’t yet reached an agreement with Google. “Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Paramount has been responsible for some of the most memorable films in cinema history,” said Malik Ducard, YouTube’s director of content partnerships. “With the addition of Paramount, we now have five of the six major studios and over ten independent movie studios offering nearly 9,000 movies for rent to millions of people around the world. It’s still early days for us, and we’ll continue adding new titles and expanding our service to more countries this year.” The majority of the movies tied to this deal are available now, and the rest will be added to YouTube and Google Play over the next few months. More →
Redbox announced this week that the company crossed the two billion mark for movie and video game rentals. It will celebrate the milestone by offering a free, one-night movie rental with the code “THANKS2U” for one day only on Thursday. Redbox has seen substantial growth over the past 18 months, with one billion additional rentals, a feat that previously took six years to accomplish. “We’ve always known how much America loves easy, affordable entertainment, and today we can prove it two billion times over,” said Scott Di Valerio, chief financial officer of Redbox parent company Coinstar. “Just 18 months ago, we rented our one billionth DVD and we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate this remarkable second rental milestone with our customers.” Read on for Redbox’s press release. More →
On Wednesday we reported on a story that suggested Verizon may be planning to challenge Netflix by launching its own video streaming service. Now, it appears the communications giant is secretly working with RedBox, the popular $1.00 video rental kiosk company, on a streaming service that could launch next year. According to TechCrunch, the plan is currently called “Project Zoetrope” and it will allow users to subscribe, download and stream movies and television shows across a variety of platforms including Roku, web browsers, Xbox, Google TV, Android and iOS. Like competing services such as Vudu, both HD and SD resolutions will be available for rental. TechCrunch said pricing will be based on a monthly credit allotment. A user, for example, might buy 10 credits for $9.95 per month, which would allow him or her to stream a certain number of shows or movies. Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix, Vudu and others are already members of the crowded digital movie rental space, so Verizon and RedBox will certainly face stiff competition if they’re looking to enter this market. More →
Just ahead of the release of Amazon’s highly anticipated Kindle Fire tablet, the company has added a new perk for Amazon Prime subscribers that could be the icing on the cake for future Fire owners. Beginning immediately, all Kindle eBook readers and the Kindle Fire tablet will have access to what Amazon has dubbed Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a stash of thousands of books that may be “borrowed” indefinitely for free. Users may borrow one title per month, and the list of available books currently includes more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers. “Owning a Kindle just got even better. Today, we’re introducing a new Prime benefit built for Kindle: The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “Prime Members now have exclusive access to a huge library of books to read on any Kindle device at no additional cost and with no due dates.” BGR went hands-on with the Kindle Fire during Amazon’s press conference, and we can definitely see the retail giant making a dent in the tablet market quickly with this $199 offering, which launches on November 15th. The plethora of value-added services available on the device for Prime members will only improve the slate’s odds in a crowded market currently dominated by Apple. Some analysts believe Amazon could sell as many as 5 million tablets during the fourth quarter alone. Amazon’s Lending Library press release follows below. More →
On Wednesday, Walmart subsidiary VUDU launched a new iPad-accessible web app that allows iPad users to stream more than 20,000 movies and television shows directly from the Web. iPad owners don’t have to use iTunes and simply need to navigate to http://VUDU.com for access to rentals and purchases. “VUDU’s launch on the iPad plays into that vision as we’re committed to offering the VUDU experience on as many devices as possible so customers can shop for and access their favorite movies and TV shows however they want, whenever they want,” general manager of VUDU Edward Lichty said. Customers can add a VUDU web app to their home screen by clicking the “Add to Home Screen” button once they have accessed the website. Read on for the full press release. More →
GameFly announced on Wednesday it will soon offer a new service called “Unlimited PC Play” that will allow gamers to download an unlimited amount of games to their Windows or Mac computer. Much like Netflix’s business model, GameFly will provide instant access to more than 8,000 rental discs or more than 1,500 instant downloads for a monthly fee. The service will require a desktop client that will include news, a feed of HD trailers and screen shots of the latest games. GameFly also said there will be a social component that will allow gamers to interact with one another in real-time. A closed beta will begin on September 8th for current GameFly subscribers and a public launch will occur during the holiday season. Read on for the full press release. More →
Netflix announced two new unlimited DVD plans on Tuesday, including a $7.99 option for one DVD at a time and an $11.99 option that allows users to rent two DVDs at a time. The company also said that it will discontinue its current $9.99 monthly option that provides access to unlimited DVD rentals and unlimited instant streaming each month. Instead, the movie rental service will charge users $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming and a minimum of $7.99 per month for unlimited DVDs (with one rented out at a time at that rate). Essentially, that means users with the current $9.99 offering will instead have to cough up $15.98 per month in order to maintain their current subscription plan. “Reflecting our confidence that DVDs by mail is a long-term business for us, we are also establishing a separate and distinct management team solely focused on DVDs by mail, led by Andy Rendich, our Chief Service and Operations Officer and an 11 year veteran of Netflix,” the company said in a blog post. Netflix’s current plans will expire in September, and users will need to switch to a new plan by that time. More →
OnLive — the popular gaming service that allows you to purchase, subscribe, or rent games and play them on your television — has now announced that it’s extending its gaming support to mobile devices. Later this summer the company will debut a new controller, as well as applications for iOS and Android. OnLive basically streams the game your playing, which means you don’t need to have an insane amount of hardware muscle on your device just to play Duke Nukem in all of its glory while on the road. We had a chance to go hands-on with OnLive running on the iPad, HTC Flyer, and Motorola XOOM, and the experience was virtually the same across all three devices; we were blown away at the performance. The custom controller, which will also launch later this summer, felt a lot like an Xbox 360 controller, and we felt right at home. Check out our gallery below, then hit the jump for the full press release.
Retail giant Sears isn’t the first company that comes to mind when you think about digital movie downloads, but a newly launched offering aims to change that. The company has announced Alphaline Entertainment, a digital movie rental and download service that runs on the RoxioNow platform. First rumored back in July, Alphaline will offer users 24-hour movie rentals for between $3 and $4 or movie purchases for between $10 and $20. Movies can be viewed on a PC or on any RoxioNow capable device (e.g. Xbox 360). In the future, Sears hopes to support viewing on Macintosh computers, mobile devices, and network connected TVs. What do you think? Does Sears stand a chance against Amazon, Netflix, and the like? More →
What was once rumored is now a reality. Netflix has announced that beginning today the company will offer a new, streaming-only service option for $7.99 per month. The plan, which does not include any by-mail DVD rentals, allows users to stream available titles to their televisions, mobile devices, and computer screens. “Creating the best user experience that we can around watching instantly is how we’re spending the vast majority of our time and resources,” reads the press release.
The second, and less attractive bit of this story, is that the company also plans to increase monthly plan prices by anywhere from $1 to $8. Netflix did not offer any explanation for the increases, but did note that the price of its two most popular plans — one DVD and 2 DVDs — will only rise by $1. Hit the bounce to see how your Netflix plan will be affected. More →
Redbox is reportedly exploring possibilites to expand its movie rental service beyond kiosks and onto the Internet. According to Redbox President Mitch Lowe, Redbox is considering a web service to to expand the availability of its 100,000 movie catalog and to make it easier for consumers to access its service. Initial details are not expected to be unveiled until October but the movie rental company could benefit from a strong online offering. With Blockbuster on the decline and interest in online streaming exploding, Redbox has an opportunity to grab some market share before the field gets over-crowded. More →
After a disappointing Q4 2009 performance, Blockbuster’s woes continue with the US video giant looking to pawn off its European operations as a means of generating some much needed cash. According to a report from the Sunday Times, Blockbuster has hired Winchester Capital to sell off its European division which includes 650 stores in the UK and an unknown number of stores in Denmark, Italy, and Ireland. Combined, these assets could net Blockbuster a respectable £50m ($76M USD) at a time when the movie rental king is hemorrhaging cash and straining under the weight of increasing debt which now totals $964 million. This shot in the arm may not be the Hail Mary that saves Blockbuster from its downward spiral, but it is at least a step in the right direction for the ailing company. More →